|Subject: AGE: UN turns blind eye to use of
UN turns blind eye to use of Timor brothels
Lindsay Murdoch, Dili
May 7, 2007
UNITED Nations police and civilian staff are openly violating what the UN promised would be a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual abuse and misconduct in deeply religious East Timor.
Expatriates in Dili say a dozen brothels have recently opened in the city, with UN vehicles parked outside most nights. Teenage Timorese prostitutes gather just before dusk opposite a hotel on Dili's waterfront, where UN vehicles can be seen picking them up.
"It's disgusting … these people who have supposedly come here to help the Timorese are abusing these poor girls," says an Australian mechanic drinking in the hotel's second-floor bar, where he observes the scene every night.
One of the brothels is employing a dozen ethnic-Chinese prostitutes, expatriates say.
A UN employee told The Age that the world body was turning a blind eye to prostitution by its employees.
"The so-called zero tolerance policy includes prostitution, but nothing is being done stop it," she said.
UN employees, who come from 40 countries, have also brought dangerous driving to East Timor as it struggles to recover from last year's violent upheaval. UN vehicles have been involved in 80 single-vehicle accidents since March, some of them apparently involving drink-driving.
Atul Khare, an Indian diplomat heading the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste told UN staff last week that he was "shocked and distressed" by UN drivers' behaviour. "We are guests in this country, and we are present here to help the people recover from the trauma of conflict and not to perpetuate it," he said.
When the UN Security Council established the mission in August last year, Sukehiro Hasegawa, then the top UN official in Dili, promised a crackdown on behaviour of UN personnel.
In New York, the UN had just received an internal report exposing a culture that had covered up perverted and outrageous behaviour by UN staff in East Timor over years.
The report revealed peacekeepers left behind at least 20 babies they had fathered to poverty-stricken Timorese women. Those women are now stigmatised and in some cases ostracised by their communities.
It also revealed sexual abuse of children and bestiality. Since 1999, when UN personnel first arrived in East Timor, not one employee has been charged with a serious offence.
Allison Cooper, the UN spokeswoman in Dili, told The Age that the mission was strictly enforcing the zero-tolerance policy towards any misconduct and had set up a special internal investigation unit.
The unit had received two reports of sexual abuse by UN employees but had closed investigations because of a lack of evidence, Ms Cooper said. UN police have begun setting up alcohol breath-testing checkpoints around Dili.
Of 26 UN members breath-tested at a checkpoint last week near a nightclub, four tested positive. Three vehicles and two weapons were impounded.
Ms Cooper said those who tested positive had been suspended from driving UN vehicles pending final investigations.
More than 1600 UN police and about 500 civilian UN employees serve in the mission.
About 1000 Australian and New Zealand soldiers in an Australian-commanded International Security Force are not permitted to drink alcohol or to socialise outside their barracks.